What does it mean to be the ones bending on the beach,
Gathering the bodies:
Necks twisted,
Legs hanging limp and pale.
They just keep washing in and washing in.

Too cold for a blanket and a heat lamp—
The sleek black wings, now roughed with gray,
Will never fly again,
No matter how gently you massage them.
The orange bills are shut.
You cannot coax them open for a capelin.
All you can do is count, and document,
And share your notes
To try and understand.

Two years later, they’ll publish the conclusions in a journal:
The oceans warmed, the fish fled, the tufted puffins starved, then drowned.
To the headlines yet another sign
Of the world we are deforming.

But not you,
Sea on your hands and sand on your knees,
As you cradle the remains
And lay them
In some kind of order.

What does it mean
To be the ones still on the beach, waiting?
“We are now just bracing for what is going to wash in next.”

Image Paul Huber /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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